Group living and cooperation

Cooperation and group living is widespread among animals
and at first glance manhandles the traditional theory of natural
selection proposed by Darwin 200 years ago. Animals are
predicted to compete among each other and not to cooperate.
Explaining cooperation and the maintenance of societies in
nature has been one of the major tasks for behavioural ecologists
in the last few decades and there are still a lot of unresolved issues.
I am interested in cooperation in a broad sense with a particular
interest in how animals manage their relationships within a group.
Exactly as fishes evolved gills to survive under water, social animal
evolved specific strategies or capabilities in order to resolve the
problems they face in their all-day life within their community. I am
investigating some of the costs and benefits emerging from sociality
as well as the different strategies that are employed to reduce the
costs, notably those induced by conflicts, by studying colonies of
wild living rooks (Corvus frugilegus) around Neuchâtel. This highly
social corvid species lives in large colonies during the breeding
period and forms flocks throughout the year. Hence, rooks are a
particularly well suited species to study conflicts and cooperation
in the wild. Furthermore, most recent studies that were interested
in the sociality of this species were conducted in captivity and
hence, evidence coming from the field is still needed and it is one
of the aims of the current project to fill this gap.

Cooperative personality

During my master thesis work I realised relatively soon that the individuals
I observed differed from each other in their behaviour. For instance, some
individuals were more reactive toward intruders than others or some males
shared more food with theirfemales than "average males", i.e., were more
generous. Animal personalities have been defined as consistent behavioural
differences between individuals and have been documented in a wide range
of species. Astonishingly, the cooperative - uncooperative tendency of
individuals, i.e., cooperative personality type, is still a relatively unexplored
topic. Hence, I aim investigating whether rooks differ in their tendency to
cooperate, whether these differences remain constant across different
contexts throughout the year and what implication these differences have
for individuals living in a group.



Room: D 128


Université de Neuchâtel
Institut de Biologie
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CH-2000 Neuchâtel

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